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Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

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Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever [Hardcover]

Bill O'Reilly , Dwight Jon Zimmerman
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (460 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-9-This skillfully abridged and adapted edition of O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln (Holt, 2011) retains the format of the adult title with brief chapters written in a present tense, "you are there" style. It opens in the often-chaotic closing days of the Civil War, capturing the jubilation following Lee's surrender, the events of Lincoln's last days, and Booth's obsessive hatred of Lincoln and his conspiracy to assassinate him. It then describes the shooting and Lincoln's final hours and death, the manhunt for Booth and his allies, Booth's death, and the speedy trial and execution of his coconspirators. An afterword relates the fates of other important figures, and appendixes include a "Lincoln's World" that provides facts about aspects of the Civil War, time lines, and Lincoln-related Washington, DC, locations. Well-captioned illustrations, which include maps and period photos of the major players and significant locations, appear on almost every page and are both informative and interesting. This thrillerlike adaptation captures the excitement of the Union victory in the Civil War and the shock and horror that quickly followed as the country learned of Lincoln's death and sought revenge on his assassins. The popularity of O'Reilly's adult title will drive interest in this version, but it definitely stands alone and will find an audience among general readers and report writers. Chasing Lincoln's Killer (Scholastic, 2009), the YA version of James L. Swanson's adult best-seller, is more narrowly focused on the conspiracy and the massive manhunt for Booth.-Mary Mueller, formerly at Rolla Junior High School, MOα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Based on O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln (2011), this version is accessible to younger readers. After detailing events during the last, desperate days of the Civil War, the book’s focus shifts from Lee and Grant to Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. It traces their lives during the five days leading up to the assassination and provides details of Booth’s attack and Lincoln’s death. The final chapters discuss the president’s funeral, the assassin’s escape, and the fate of Booth and his coconspirators. The use of present tense lends immediacy to the telling, which creates dramatic tension as the spotlights shifts, chapter by chapter, from one person to another. However, the book has no source notes, even for reported conversations. Though reproduced in gray scale, the many archival photos, period drawings and prints, maps, and photos of artifacts will help readers visualize the period, people, and events. Pair this with James L. Swanson’s Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009), another young-people’s version of a history book written for adults. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This will no doubt be promoted on Bill’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, and on other media outlets, so adult fans may be looking at this for the kids in their lives. Grades 6-9. --Carolyn Phelan


"This thrillerlike adaptation captures the excitement of the Union victory in the Civil War and the shock and horror that quickly followed as the country learned of Lincoln’s death and sought revenge on his assassins. The popularity of O’Reilly’s adult title will drive interest in this version, but it definitely stands alone and will find an audience among general readers and report writers." -- School Library Journal

"...accessible to younger readers.”--Booklist

Praise for Killing Lincoln:

“As a history major, I wish my required reading had been as well written as this truly vivid and emotionally engaging account of Lincoln’s assassination. And as a former combat infantry officer, I found myself running for cover at the Civil War battle scenes. This is the story of an American tragedy that changed the course of history. If you think you know this story, you don’t until you’ve read Killing Lincoln. Add historian to Bill O’Reilly’s already impressive résumé.” —Nelson DeMille, author of The Lion and The Gold Coast

Killing Lincoln is a must read historical thriller. Bill O’Reilly recounts the dramatic events of the spring of 1865 with such exhilarating immediacy that you will feel like you are walking the streets of Washington DC on the night that John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln. This is a hugely entertaining, heart-stopping read.” —Vince Flynn, author of American Assassin

“If Grisham wrote a novel about April 1865 . . . it might well read like Killing Lincoln.” —Peter J. Boyer, Newsweek

“[Killing Lincoln] delivers a taut, action-packed narrative with cliff-hangers aplenty.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“[Killing Lincoln] is nonfiction, albeit told in white-knuckled, John Grisham-like style.” —New York Post


About the Author

Bill O'Reilly is the anchor of The O'Reilly Factor, the highest-rated cable news show in the country. He is the author of several number-one bestselling books.

Dwight Jon Zimmerman has adapted books for young readers by distinguished authors such as Dee Brown and James McPherson. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Petersburg, Virginia

THERE IS NO NORTH VERSUS SOUTH in Petersburg now. Only Grant versus Lee—and Grant has the upper hand. Like many of the generals on both sides, Lee and Grant served together in the Mexican War. Now, in the Civil War, these former comrades-in-arms are enemies.
Lee is fifty-eight years old, a tall, rugged Virginian with a silver beard and formal air. Grant is forty-two and Lee’s exact opposite: dark-haired and sloppy in dress, a small, introspective man who has a fondness for cigars and a close relationship with horses. When Grant was a baby, his mother’s friends were shocked to see that Hannah Grant allowed her son to crawl between their horses’ feet!
Like Lee, Grant possesses a genius for warfare—indeed, he is capable of little else. When the Civil War began, he was a washed-up, barely employed West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican War who had been forced out of military service, done in by lonely western outposts and an inability to hold his liquor. It was only through luck and connections that Grant secured a commission in an Illinois regiment. At the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee in February 1862, Grant and his army delivered the first major victories to the Union. And Grant kept on winning. As the war continued, Lincoln gave him more and more responsibility. Now Grant is general in chief—the commander of all the Union armies from Virginia down to New Orleans.
A Currier & Ives lithograph of the Battle of Petersburg.
At Petersburg, the Confederate lines are arranged in a jagged horseshoe, facing south—thirty-seven miles of trenches and fortifications in all. The outer edges of the horseshoe are two miles from the city center, under the commands of Confederate A. P. Hill on the right and John B. Gordon on the left.
*   *   *
The day before, at the decisive Battle of Five Forks, Union General Phil Sheridan and 45,000 men had captured a pivotal crossing, cutting off the main road to North Carolina.
It was long after dark when word of the great victory reached Grant. Without pausing, Grant pushed his advantage. He ordered another attack. He hoped this would be the blow to crush Lee and his army once and for all. His soldiers would attack just before dawn, but he ordered the artillery fire to begin immediately.
*   *   *
The Union attack is divided into two waves. Major General Horatio Wright, leading the 24,000 men in his Sixth Corps, charges first and shatters the right side of Lee’s line. Wright’s attack is so well choreographed that many of his soldiers are literally miles in front of the main Union force. As Wright’s men reorganize to prepare for the next stage of attack, the rest of the Union army strikes.
Lieutenant General A. P. Hill, Confederate States of America.
Meanwhile, Lee and his assistants, the generals James “Pete” Longstreet and A. P. Hill, gaze out at Wright’s army from the front porch of Lee’s Confederate headquarters, the Turnbull house. The three of them stand there as the sun rises high enough to confirm their worst fears: every soldier they can see wears blue.
A horrified A. P. Hill realizes that his army is being crushed, and he jumps on his horse to try to stop the disaster in the making. He is shot and killed by Union soldiers.
Lee faces the sobering fact that Union soldiers are just a few short steps from controlling the main road he plans to use for his retreat. He will be cut off if the bluecoats in the pasture continue their advance.
Fortune, however, is smiling on the Confederates. Those Union soldiers have no idea that Lee himself is right in front of them. If they did, they would attack without ceasing, because any soldier who captured Lee would become a legend.
The Union scouts can clearly see the small artillery battery outside Lee’s headquarters, and they assume that it is part of a much larger rebel force hiding out of sight. Rather than rush forward, the scouts hesitate.
Lieutenant General James “Pete” Longstreet.
Seizing the moment, Lee escapes north across the Appomattox River and then turns west. His goal is the Richmond and Danville Railroad Line at Amelia Court House, where he has arranged to store food and supplies. He issues orders to the commanders of his corps to follow. At one point, Lee pauses to write a letter to Confederate president Jefferson Davis, saying that his army is in retreat and can no longer defend Richmond. Davis and the Confederate government must abandon the city or risk capture.
The final chase has begun.

Copyright © 2012 by Bill O’Reilly

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